Mr. Speaker, I am glad you called him to order. I have found it difficult this morning to listen to what I consider to be very sexist comments of a personal nature and I find that it continues now.
It is interesting. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that today is his birthday and so, on behalf of everyone in this House, I would be happy to wish him a happy birthday and ask him to relax and consider what we are talking about today.
We are debating the question of corporate giveaways, tax havens and tax loopholes at a time when Canadians are finding it hard to make ends meet, and are finding that their share of income taxes went up and up on a personal basis, while corporate taxation is going down and down.
Perhaps the member for Kings—Hants needs to be reminded how he has made some very curious statements over the years himself, going back to a few years ago when he suggested that the Kyoto protocol was written on the back of a barf bag. That was changed to the Kyoto protocol being written on the back of a napkin.
Let us get our facts straight. Let us understand that whether we are talking about Kyoto, or we are talking about corporate loopholes, or talking about income trusts, or income interest deductibility, we have to ensure that we are talking from the basis of facts and from the point of view of trying to understand why a party that had 13 years to address this serious situation chose not to. The Liberal Party chose not to close tax loopholes such as Barbados and today is standing up in the House and defending two programs that have been identified as a way to give more and more money to corporations at a time when Canadians are struggling and paying more and more of their income tax to support government programs.
Canadians want balance. They want an understanding that the government is prepared to apply a measure of fairness. They have seen none of that from the Liberals. The Conservative proposals to date may be somewhat confusing. There may be some need for clarification, but at least the Conservatives have identified some areas of corporate taxation that are not justified and have to be dealt with.
The motion we have today is interesting because it really is a rare 12-year-old blend of Liberal corporate friendly neglect of tax havens and tax loopholes with the Liberal corporate friendly neglect of income trusts. That is the essence of this motion.
Only the Liberals, and we have seen it again this morning, have the nerve to drag out their past failures to act for ordinary Canadians rather than corporations and get self-righteous about it at the same time. Only Liberals can do that. Is there no end? Is there no end to the lengths the Liberals will go to help feather the bed of Canada's corporate elite?
It is not a hidden fact, not unknown information, that Canadian corporations will take advantage of any existing tax havens and loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The role of government is to deal with those loopholes that are unfair and allow for income to be hidden and taxes to be avoided. It is something we pleaded with the Liberals to do for years.
I want to go back to the whole Barbados tax haven debate. We raised in 2003 the Barbados tax haven and the fact that the company owned by the present member for LaSalle—Émard, the former prime minister of this country, former leader of the Liberals, had used the Barbados tax haven as a tax avoidance measure. That was clearly, irrefutably stated in 2003 when this whole issue was dealt with by the Ethics Commissioner.
I quote again from the dialogue that went on between the representative of the member for LaSalle—Émard and a member of the committee investigating this:
Question: Why did you move your shell companies to Barbados in 1995?
Answer: We moved them to Barbados because of the change in the Canadian tax rules.
I could go on. There is no shortage of evidence to show that in fact this was a tax haven that was used by Liberals, it was a benefit to Liberals, and the Liberals stand today refusing to address that issue.
There is a real question for the Conservatives today. They have dealt with income trusts. They have dealt with interest deductibility. Will they finally deal with this outstanding issue left by the Liberals? Will they finally close the Barbados tax haven? Will they finally shut down this lucrative vehicle for Canadian companies to hide money, companies such as Merck Frosst, which is being audited for putting $2 billion in the Barbados tax haven and not paying taxes?
Is that not enough of a reason for the government to act? Is that not enough of a justification for the Conservatives to make a commitment in the House today that they are going beyond interest deductibility measures and income trust provisions to deal with tax havens and all other loopholes, havens and hidden arrangements that allow businesses to avoid paying their fair share of taxes?
What is at stake here is that hard-working, honest Canadians are left to pick up the slack. There is nothing about that in this Liberal motion. There is nothing about how the balance shifted between the corporations and individual hard-working Canadians over the last 10 years that the Liberals were in power. There is nothing in the motion that says we will actually work to ensure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes and ordinary Canadians will start to get a break. There is not a word.
Why is that? The Liberals have a chance to bring a motion to this House and what do they do? They bring something that stands up to defend corporations and the likes of these companies I have just mentioned, companies that want to see the income trust program maintained exactly as it was because they stand to benefit. They are companies like Brompton Funds, Gluskin Scheff and Associates, Borden Ladner Gervais, Lawrence Asset Management, and Pengrowth Energy Trust; the list goes on of people, organizations, businesses and trusts that are part of the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors. Yet those Liberals stand here and get all excited because we have identified the fact that there are donations going back and forth between these organizations and the Liberal Party.
I think the question for Canadians is legitimate. What kind of influence has this had on the Liberal Party? Why has it taken such a clear stance against cracking down on corporate loopholes? What is behind this whole support of big banks and big corporations?
I suppose one could argue that the Liberal finance critic's connections to Bay Street are reason enough, but surely we leave some of the hats we have worn in previous lives at the door when we enter this place, try to do what is in the best interests of the public, and put in place good public policy. We have not seen evidence of that to date.
In fact, as a good example of this, just two days ago at our finance committee I attempted once again to convince committee members to call upon the banks to give to the committee and to Parliament information pertaining to the costs of providing ATM services, to give a breakdown of those fees and to enunciate the profits involved in that particular operation.
Those were reasonable requests, I believe. Canadians have a right to basic information. The banks have a responsibility to be somewhat transparent and accountable to Canadians. That is why we have a Bank Act. That is why this place spends a great deal of time on banking legislation.
However, would members believe that except for two Liberals, the rest, including the Liberal finance critic and the former Liberal finance critic, voted against that motion? It is not surprising that the Conservatives did as well. Surprisingly, the Bloc supported the Liberals and the Conservatives on this, so we are left with no motion and with no message from this place to ask the banks to provide basic information.
I am not talking about a motion at the finance committee to call on the government to end ATM fees, although certainly that is something that I think has to be addressed by this place. I was simply asking for this place to ask for information that the consumers of this country have a right to know.
What are the different fees that banks are charging? Under what terms and circumstances? What are the costs? What is the profit margin? How do the banks justify the huge profits and the price gouging, which is so evident when it comes to ATMs?
Here is our example of what is wrong with the Liberals in this place and their supposed concern about the public good: when push comes to shove, each and every time Liberals stand up against consumers and on the side of big banks and big corporations.
Now, to talk about the issue of foreign investments, those members are making the spurious connection between the problem of foreign takeovers of Canadian businesses and the interest deductibility and the income trust programs. There is no connection.
In fact, I would hope by now that members clearly would have read some of the expert advice. Let us go back to Jack Mintz, who actually called for the removal of this interest deductibility provision, the double-dipping, a number of years ago. Perhaps he has changed his mind now. We are not sure, given the fact that the Liberals are using his name, but it was clear back when the Auditor General made this recommendation, and on numerous occasions, that Jack Mintz made this recommendation.
Others made this recommendation because in fact it is a case of revenue being lost to Canada because of an escape hatch, because of double dipping, because of corporate interests taking advantage of a provision that was not intended for double dipping but which has become so.
I would hope that members might have listened very carefully and might have read the letter we received from the Canadian Labour Congress. I know that members on the Liberal side often like to cite the CLC and Ken Georgetti's words in many of their debates and like to create the illusion of being on the side of workers. They pretend that they are all in favour of ending anti-scab legislation and then they turn around and vote against it. Or they pretend they are in favour of cracking down on poor working conditions and lack of pay equity and they do not take any measures when they have their chance to do so.
However, I would hope that in this debate they would at least listen to the words of Ken Georgetti and the CLC, who have written very clearly to the minister and to parliamentarians expressing support for the promise in the budget to end the corporate tax deductions for interest on debt used to finance foreign affiliates, stating:
At a time when Canada has lost 250,000 manufacturing jobs, Canadian tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the transfer of such jobs out of the country. Ending this subsidy for foreign investment will raise revenues needed to finance vital public investment and help to promote business investment in Canada.
I see that my time is at an end. Let me say that obviously we vehemently oppose this motion. We stand up for working Canadians and ordinary families. We believe that it is time for public policy, government actions and federal budgets to reflect the growing gap between the very rich in our society and the rest of us. The fact is that we are dealing with a 30 year high in terms of that gap in income.
We are dealing with the fact that fewer and fewer people are controlling all of the wealth in this nation and more and more Canadians are working harder and harder to make ends meet, without support and without public policies that benefit them. It is time to change that. The Liberals are going in the wrong direction.